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190Philosophy and Literature scientific heroes. As he himself points out, he is particularly indebted to Derrida . He obviously shares the hunger of modern criticism for omniscience. This maiden book, in large part the product of his acknowledgement of the impossibility of this goal, is an important achievement. University of California, Santa BarbaraPhilip Walker Modernism: Challenges and Perspectives, edited by Monique Chefdor, Ricardo Quiñones, and Albert Wachtel; ix & 347 pp. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986, $20.95. The eighteen essays collected in this volume were originally given as papers at a conference and lecture series sponsored by the Claremont Colleges in 1982. According to the editors, the goal was "to bring into focus some of the directions taken by [the] recently growing corpus of Modernist scholarship ... by drawing together a variety of viewpoints within international and interdisciplinary perspectives" (p. viii). The articles presented here reflect the organizers' eclectic approach. Indeed they represent no fewer than five disciplines and seven national cultures. The book is divided into three parts: these are devoted to the origins of modernism, to modernism itself, and to postmodernism respectively. The initial essay, by Clement Greenberg, considers the advent of modernism in Manet's paintings. The next, by Michel Décaudin, discusses the concept of modernity in the context of Baudelaire and the generation of 1885. Following an analysis of Schoenberg's music by Robert P. Morgan, Martin Esslin analyzes the Naturalist origins of modern drama, while Robert Wohl examines the generation of 1914. Matei Calinescu and Russell A. Berman study the relation of modernism to ideology and to Fascism respectively. The second section opens with Anna Balakian's comparison of Huidobro, Ball, and Reverdy. Harvey Gross identifies parody, reminiscence, and critique as important modernist tenets, while Margaret Davies discusses the concept of modernity in Paris prior to World War I. Succeeding essays by Jo-Anna Isak and Jay Bochner examine Vorticism in the context of Russian Futurism and study the New York Secession. The section ends with Renée Riese Hubert's analysis of Paul Klee and Mary Ann Caws's discussion of cloaking, "remembering ," and ellipsis in modernist texts. In the final section Claude LeRoy identifies pseudonymy as the principle governing postmodernist production. For Charles Baxter, however, the key to postmodernism lies in the author's inability to provoke an antagonistic response from his audience. Thereafter Marc Bensimon analyzes the dissolution of linearity and opposition in the context of Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus. The concluding chapter, by Reviews191 Ihab Hassan, stresses the role of indeterminacy and immanence in postmodernism and provides a working definition. From this bare outline the volume's virtues and vices are readily apparent. On the one hand, its breadth ensures that every reader will find someuiing of interest. Moreover, the variety of approaches and subject matter is stimulating and encourages impromptu comparisons. On the other hand, the selections themselves present several problems. One wonders, for example, why Dada receives so little attention, and why Italian Futurism is ignored altogether. Given the vast importance of these movements for modern aesthetics, uieir absence is unfortunate. A second objection concerns the concept of "modernism " which serves as the book's focal point. Rather than revealing the extraordinary diversity that modernism assumes — as the editors would like — the volume demonstrates the futility of applying this term to nineteenth and twentieth-century aesthetic experience. Indeed, many of the contributors ignore the term or reject it entirely (see Décaudin, pp. 25-28, in particular). Ironically, the word itself testifies to its own inadequacy. Since the primary meaning of "modern" is "contemporary," any attempt to historicize it is doomed to failure. Its meaning is clearly relative, not absolute. The problem has been compounded by the invention of "postmodernism" which represents a contradiction in terms. How can a movement be more contemporary than contemporary? How can it transcend immediacy? The real problem with these concepts, however, is that they are AngloAmerican inventions that have little currency outside English and American letters. Even there, moreover, their use is problematic, for it reduces aesthetic phenomena to their lowest common denominator. The difficulty is exacerbated when one branches out into other domains. In art and European literature , for example...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 190-191
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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